Tracing Tracy Territory: New station ready to serve
by Sam Matthews/TP publisher emeritus
Feb 05, 2010 | 4767 views | 14 14 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tracy’s original railroad station was located on the Alamont Line. Press file photo
view slideshow (2 images)
Walking through the main waiting room of the new Tracy Transit Station on Monday afternoon with a couple-hundred other local residents, I certainly wasn’t alone in marveling at what a great facility it is.

Yes, no trains (high-speed or otherwise) are yet scheduled to stop at the station, and I haven’t heard any indication that Greyhound buses will even use it, but the station itself is a mighty impressive building.

Its use as a space for community functions and meetings of local organizations appears to be its best and highest role, at least in the near future. Standing in the center of the main waiting room Monday, I chatted briefly with Evelyn Tolbert, she of the City Council. Evelyn voiced a strong desire for the city to keep its rental rates for the facility at the lowest possible levels to encourage robust use.

The balancing act between fees and use is nothing new for the city, which is trying to cover at least some of its costs and keep rates low at the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts, the Tracy Community Center, the Lolly Hansen Senior Center, ball fields and other venues. The right balance for a municipal government serving the community must lean toward greater use rather than higher revenue.

A few minutes after talking to Evelyn, I chatted briefly with Jimmy Dameron, the retired Southern Pacific engineer who has a greater-than-average interest in Tracy railroad history.

As we kicked around the location of the new transit station near the site of the former SP station — everyone called it the SP depot — we both came up short in answering the question: What ever happened to that earlier station?

Jimmy remembered tearing up some of the tracks in the original switching yard surrounding the depot after the yard was moved east of town in 1961. But the fate of the station wasn’t fixed in his mind — nor in mine, for that matter.

We had to agree that the wood-frame depot building was torn down, probably in a matter of hours, as the SP started dismantling facilities in the original yard area, including the roundhouse, “shops” and buildings that housed trainmaster and roadmaster offices.

I can remember taking photos of the ghost-like roundhouse area at that time, but by then, the station was gone.

That station, on the south side of the main line from Martinez, was actually Tracy’s second SP depot. The original station, constructed soon after the railroad founded Tracy in 1878, faced south on the north side of the Altamont line.

When the second depot was constructed — probably around the turn of the 20th century — the original depot was used for other railroad functions off C Street, which for many years was the main crossing route before Central Avenue was extended. The first station was eventually demolished.

The second station included, from east to west, a small crew-dispatcher’s room, the ticket office and the communications and billing center.

The photos that accompany today’s column are all we have remaining of the original SP stations — er, depots.

Cliff Seal, who was SP passenger agent at the second depot for three decades, told of the 1920s, when 27 passenger trains passed in and out of Tracy every day. The busy passenger-rail day started at 4 a.m. with the arrival of “the paper train” carrying newspapers from San Francisco, and ended with the Owl passing through at 8:45 p.m. en route down the West Side line toward Los Angeles.

Even if high-speed rail trains eventually do call at the local depot — er, transit station — there’s little likelihood there will be 27 trains a day. A smaller number traveling without the noise of the old steam engines, though, would be a welcome circumstance.

If that ever occurs, the trains could run through the Bow Tie area on submerged tracks that would allow north-south streets — MacArthur Drive, Central Avenue and Tracy Boulevard — to pass overhead without overpasses. At least that’s one possibility being considered by high-speed rail planners.

There are still a number of “ifs” in all of this, but one element is certain: The new Tracy Transit Station has been completed and stands at the corner of Sixth and Central, ready to serve whatever comes its way.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at shm@tracypress.com.
Comments
(14)
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ConcernedNeighbor
|
February 10, 2010
If no trains would go through Tracy, turn the transit station into a Campus!!

But I do hope to see the dream come true.

CN

benzoate
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February 09, 2010
fortheunderdog,

It is largely irrelavent since that is a separate property. In addition, it is not written in the grant funding terms this building cannot be used for meetings.
FTUD
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February 09, 2010
benzoate,

I don't mind the freight trains either.

And because the tracks and the property they're located on are owned by Union Pacific your last sentence rings true..."They can do what they want."
benzoate
|
February 09, 2010
fortheunderdog,

It doesn't bother me if Union Pacific runs freight. They can do what they want.
fortheunderdog
|
February 09, 2010
"Yes, no trains (high-speed or otherwise) are yet scheduled to stop at the station, and I haven’t heard any indication that Greyhound buses will even use it, but the station itself is a mighty impressive building.

Its use as a space for community functions and meetings of local organizations appears to be its best and highest role..."

Matthews admits to no trains being scheduled to use it and a major source, in the way of Greyhound Transportation, is not scheduled to use it. That leaves mostly local/county buses scheduled to make stops there.

Matthews said using the building for meetings "appears to be its best and highest role".

Grant money for this bus(t) station was meant for transportation, not to hold meetings. I don't think the State gave Tracy the money only to be used by local/county buses and to hold meetings. Any passenger railroad schedules are a long way down the road, if it happens at all. There is no guarantee that the high speed rail will stop there or even AMTRAK or ACE. What is a given...those are MOCOCO tracks people, you can be guaranteed that freight trains will pass by the bus(t) station when that line reopens.
MTender
|
February 08, 2010
Sam,

There are actually three or even more historic buildings located at the same intersection where the Transit Station is now located.

One is the historic bank building (now the Design Center), which is located just east of the new Transit Station across the street on Sixth.

The second is the old Fire Station, located directly across Sixth Street from the new Transit Station.

The third, of course is the Grand and many other building visible from that intersection.

Incidently, standing from the corner of Central and 10th you can see the Grand, the Station, City Hall, and all of the history and businesses on 10th and Central.

jpribyl
|
February 08, 2010
While the first and second Tracy stations may be long gone, an old Banta station still exists and was recently restored.

The surviving Banta station was built in 1897 to SP's standard plan #18 -- very similar in appearance to the first Tracy station. Rail traffic at Banta didn't develop as hoped and in 1902, the railroad dismantled the building. It was shipped in pieces to Benicia, where it was rebuilt and still stands. In 2004, the City of Benicia restored the building.

Additional information on the building can be found in the Historical American Buildings Survey/Historical American Engineering Record at the Library of Congress and in the City of Benecia's application for listing the building in the California Register of Historical Resources.
CabinCar
|
February 08, 2010
I think it's awesome that our city can give our congressman the what for. Saw his comments in the paper saying Tracy is a place that can get things done.

Now, if our congressman or the governor puts the high speed train in the Pacheco Pass they will be wasting the taxpayers money. The Tracy/Altamont pass high-speed train will serve over a hundred thousand peopla and save the taxpayers more money because it is a shorter distance to the Bay Area.

And while we are Tracying Tracy Territory. We already have existing tracks which are currently being used for passenger train service, right through Tracy, CA.

ACERail.com ( SJRRC ), Let's get the Oakland A's games and other events back on the ACE Train. In Downtown Tracy, CA.

Anonyomous
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February 08, 2010
Thank You for the Wall of Txt that I am NOT reading

you wasted a scroll of the mouse
ShiloN
|
February 06, 2010
California plans to spend a lot more than 9 Million.

http://cahsr.blogspot.com/2009/10/altamont-corridor-planning-begins.html

Altamont Corridor Planning Begins

As mandated by Proposition 1A, the California High Speed Rail Authority is beginning its process of studying the Altamont Corridor alignment. Have a look at their announcement newsletter for some details.

The project corridor is defined as San José to Stockton, with a possible spur to Modesto:

As you can tell, this is basically an upgrade and electrification of the Altamont Commuter Express - the full newsletter includes drawings of electric ACE trains traveling along a high speed rail corridor with overhead wires. The projection is that Stockton will be anywhere from 55 to 75 minutes from downtown San José once the corridor is completed, with trains operating at 150 mph or greater.

And the explanation given on the newsletter of the project's scope and goals:

The Altamont Corridor Rail Project will provide a vital link in the regional transit network, connecting our communities like never before. The project will create a dedicated passenger train corridor between Stockton and San Jose, with stops in key cities in between. A spur link to Modesto is also a possibility. The project study area is shown to the right, along with opportunities for strategic intercity rail connectivity. Specific route alignments and station locations will be identified through a community-based planning process. Once developed, alternative scenarios will be evaluated through the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report.

The project could allow operation of trains between the Bay Area and points north including Stockton and Sacramento, as well as points south including Modesto and beyond, within the California High-Speed Train system. The project will provide intermodal connections to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to serve the Oakland Airport, cities of Oakland and San Francisco, as well as other Bay Area communities. Intermodal connections to BART could be located in the Livermore vicinity, should the Dublin/Pleasanton BART line be extended, as well as in the Fremont/Union City area, meeting either the Fremont line or planned Warm Springs/San Jose extension.

The Altamont Corridor Rail Project could also accommodate a future connection to the Dumbarton rail service in the Fremont/Union City area, as well as connect to the Valley Transportation Authority light rail in Santa Clara County. The project will coordinate with local bus services, providing access to proximate market areas and interfacing with regional bus links where appropriate. Whether for intercity trips, daily commutes, or access to the statewide High-Speed Train system, the Altamont Corridor Rail Project will serve our communities like never before!

My own view is that while faster ACE trains would be nice, this really isn't as high a priority for the state as upgrading the Capitol Corridor, restoring the Coast Daylight service along the Central Coast, and upgrading and speeding up the Pacific Surfliners, to name but a few projects more deserving. The inclusion of the Altamont Corridor in Prop 1A was a sop to Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani and interests in San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties to compensate for the choice of the Pacheco Pass route for the main HSR trains.

I don't have much of a preference about the implementation on the route, though we will predictably hear from residents in Fremont and Pleasanton concerned about the impact on their neighborhoods. And while it'll be nice to throw that in the faces of the people suing because the Altamont alignment was rejected for the main HSR trains, I'm not entirely sure what the Altamont high speed corridor project gets us. It doesn't deserve to be funded ahead of other higher priority corridors. I'm all for improved passenger rail and I wish the CHSRA and its corridor partners well in the development of a sensible plan, but if this never got funded, well, that's an outcome I could live with.
Anonyomous
|
February 06, 2010
This is RETARDED! There are NO trains going to it. There will be no Greyhound buses. Its going to be used as a Community Center.

Why would we build a 12 million doller Train Station to use it as a new community center?

RETARDED!
ConcernedNeighbor
|
February 06, 2010
Interesting read about Tracy's history.

Did they build that first depot before the train went through?

I'd like to think of the transit station as a seed planted to bring progress to the city.

I found this paragraph very interesting!

"If that ever occurs, the trains could run through the Bow Tie area on submerged tracks that would allow north-south streets — MacArthur Drive, Central Avenue and Tracy Boulevard — to pass overhead without overpasses. At least that’s one possibility being considered by high-speed rail planners."

It would be great if the high-speed rail planners includes Tracy for sure!

Can see the people coming up the escalators to open area called Tracy Downtown Transit Station!

Great read, thanks.. Sam Matthews.

CN
doors17
|
February 06, 2010
I love trains.

I also love the sound of a train horn from a distance while I'm in bed with my window open on a summer night.
ShiloN
|
February 05, 2010
Sam,

I liked reading your article. Keep it up.


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